What Is a Leadership Competency Framework?

A leadership competency framework is a set of core competencies that are considered most vital to leadership success. Organizations use a leadership competency framework to articulate leadership expectations and provide leaders with context for evaluating which competencies are a strength for them and competencies that need improvement. The leadership competency framework is valuable for existing leaders as they take steps to improve their actions and behaviors, lead today’s workforce, and create a high-performance, people-focused culture. Leadership competency frameworks are a valuable tool for organizations because they target how to nurture, develop, and grow the next generation of leaders.

A leadership competency framework serves as a guide for:

  • Individuals who would like to advance their career into a leadership role and need to know what to be working towards.
  • New leaders who need direction and guidance about leadership expectations.
  • Existing or seasoned leaders who are working to refine their leadership capabilities or model effective leadership for others in the organization.
  • An organization’s recruiting process to find the leaders who will be best aligned with what the organization is looking for.

While there are common leadership competencies across frameworks, every organization is unique and should define distinctive competencies that support the needs of their leaders and employees, as well as support the organization with its objectives and strategic goals.

What Does the Process of Creating a Leadership Competency Framework Entail?

A leadership competency framework requires mapping out desired competencies along with the specific behavioral indicators for each of the competencies. These competencies may be further organized into proficiency levels.

You may consider organizing competencies into three main categories, such as those seen below:

  • Leading the organization: This may involve competencies related to the ability to manage change, solve problems, make decisions, take risks, and establish strategic objectives.
  • Leading self: This may include competencies associated with how a leader displays integrity, open-mindedness, self-awareness, self-regulation, and adaptability.
  • Leading others: This may include how well a leader communicates, builds relationships, coaches team members, and develops people.

Once competencies and behavioral indicators have been defined, metrics for each competency can be solidified. The metrics define the criteria that leaders and other stakeholders use to measure progress or growth in a specific competency area.

For example, if someone is assessing their current effectiveness related to the competency of open-mindedness, the following benchmarks could be used:

  • How many times a leader meets with their team to collaborate and exchange ideas.
  • How receptive a leader is to new ideas and feedback.
  • How often a leader requests or provides feedback.

Establishing metrics to support a leadership competency framework will produce a results-driven model and create conditions for leaders to learn and grow within the targeted areas.

What Are the Benefits of a Leadership Competency Framework?

Many organizations use a leadership competency framework to establish and track key skills and abilities that they’d like their leaders to develop and put into practice. Overall, a leadership competency framework offers a structured roadmap for defining and developing desired behaviors and skillsets.

With a leadership competency framework in place, an organization is able to create the following conditions:

  • Improved alignment for the leadership team: A leadership competency framework can establish standardization across leadership expectations and development which creates a consistent approach to leadership that supports the organization’s strategy and values.
  • The development of a future-ready organization: The framework can be used to shape the development of the next generation of leaders. With this, leaders can build a more future-ready workforce and improve the viability of their business. It serves as a clear guide for people wanting to explore a potential career path.
  • Enhanced leadership competency and productivity: A framework ensures that skill gaps are addressed. A leadership competency framework provides a well-defined structure for leadership growth and improvement, in addition to providing an accountability mechanism.

Together, these benefits can ultimately maximize human capital and enhance an organization’s ability to attract, retain, and engage the workforce.

How Can Leaders Use a Leadership Competency Framework to Improve Their Competency Skills?

Learning and Development and/or HR functions play a key role in building, communicating, and implementing a leadership competency framework and providing training and development that helps leaders in the organization maximize their effectiveness within the competency areas.

Leaders should focus on developing the competencies most closely related to their work and level of responsibility then build their capabilities in more complex competencies as they grow in their role and/or leadership ability.

A leadership competency assessment that aligns with the organization’s competency framework can be a powerful tool to help evaluate current competency levels, strengths, and opportunities for improvement.

For further information and guidance about leadership competency frameworks, training to support competency development, or leadership assessment tools, contact a CMOE representative.